Inside the Music Biz 2016 Conference

Panels and performances highlight three-day event

Cheap Trick, Halsey, Music Biz President James Donio
Cheap Trick, Halsey, Music Biz President James Donio

If you’re going to give your event the lofty title “Music Biz 2016” you better deliver on the promise of the state of affairs in the music industry. Thankfully, this year’s conference, organized by the aptly named Music Business Association and held in Nashville this week, delivered the goods. The jam-packed three-day seminar included informative panels addressing streaming royalties, the state of retail music stores, catalog management, college-run student record labels, touring and merchandising tips, the importance of metadata, analyzing social metrics and more.

Attendees included top executives from music retailers, streaming services, managers, publishers, lawyers, educators and upstart musicians and bands, which made for non-stop networking. It all sounds so collegiate and the antithesis of why people play music, but given today’s DIY climate, Music Biz 2016 helped both newbies and veterans navigate what they can do on their own and why they need the help of the industry.

Sprinkled around these heady, non-musical topics were inspired musical performances and appearances from artists of various genres, including Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed, Cheap Trick, Little Big Town, The Monkees and more. Spotify’s “Anatomy of a Song” presented a spectacular songwriter in the round format at the Cordelle, an intimate house setting turned private concert room. Hosted by Luke Laird and Busbee, the two hit songwriters told behind the scenes stories of writing songs for Eric Church, Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and others before performing their numbers. Laird shined on “American Kids,” written for Kenny Chesney, while Busbee stepped up and knocked it out of the park with a deep and emotive rendition of Pink’s powerful “Try.” They delighted the audience by bringing up several special guests, including Cam, who performed “Burning House,” Lori McKenna, who sang “Humble and Kind,” a recent chart-topper for Tim McGraw, and Claude Kelly, who delivered a soulful version of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade.” The night ended with an ensemble performance of the Little Big Town hit “Girl Crush,” penned by McKenna, Hillary Lindsey (who joined in) and Liz Rose.

Spotify's "Anatomy of a Song" performers
Spotify’s “Anatomy of a Song” performers

The Music Business Association also held its annual Awards Luncheon at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel during the convention. Little Big Town received the Artist of the Year Award, Sam Hunt and Halsey received Breakthrough Artist awards, Cheap Trick received the Chairman’s Award for Sustained Creative Achievement, and Laura Heatherly of the T.J. Martell Foundation accepted the Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award from Harry’s widow, Sandy Chapin.

Little Big Town and Music Biz President James Donio
Little Big Town and Music Biz President James Donio